Home > Beer, Uncategorized > Beer Ritz: A Loss For Beer And A Loss For Leeds

Beer Ritz: A Loss For Beer And A Loss For Leeds

My post yesterday about geekiness discussed in passing the importance of specialist shops to spark and inform an interest in a particular geek “scene”, be it beer or comics or otherwise.

In July last year OK Comics, the best comic shop in Leeds, was threatened with closure due to reduced foot traffic as works were going on in the arcade in which it sits. Jared from OK went to the internet and asked for help.

In a remarkable show of support, its customers and the comic community stepped up to the plate, coming into the shop or making purchases online, spreading the word through Twitter, with even celebrity comics fan/writer Jonathan Ross getting behind the campaign. And lo, OK Comics was saved and remains a little independent haven of geek pleasure in the heart of Leeds.

However, today I learned that my other favourite shop in Leeds has closed its doors, suddenly and apparently for good. Beer Ritz is (or was) the best beer shop I’ve ever been to, without exception. Its passionate, knowledgeable staff and management were happy to help people to understand its fantastic range of beers from all around the world.

We didn’t know that Beer Ritz was under threat and didn’t have a chance to help save it, if indeed that was possible. I obviously don’t know yet why it closed, but it had seemed to me to be in good health, and deservedly so.

It’s great having online beer sellers like My Brewery Tap and Beer Merchants, but to my mind they mainly provide a great service to the initiated.

When you’re first becoming interested in beer, you want somewhere to explore the shelves, read the bottles, see what’s available. You can chat to a member of staff, buy a couple of their recommendations (rather than a case), then come back next week for more.  Beer geeks aren’t born, they’re made by places like Beer Ritz and people like Zak, Ghost Drinker and Cheeeseboiger.

That’s what Beer Ritz did for me. The first time I went to Beer Ritz I’d read and heard about a beer called Jaipur but had never been able to find it anywhere. On a quiet Saturday, I decided to look for a better off licence in the telephone directory, saw Beer Ritz and drove to Headingley. Since then I’ve been back countless times, each time spending more money than I really should due to excitement about the selection.

I started reading beer blogs after finding Zak’s brilliant one, then eventually decided to start writing my own, for what it’s worth. It’s not a coincidence that there are so many beer bloggers and tweeters in and around Leeds.  Pretty much every beer I’ve posted about here I bought from the shop.

The closure of Beer Ritz is obviously a terrible thing for the passionate staff, who deserve better, and I wish them all the best for the future. It’s bad for small breweries, who find a loyal customer base through their sales. It’s also a blow for the customers, for independent shops and for Leeds.

However, it’s also a loss for those beer geeks who will never be, who will never see that packed but carefully organised back room with hundreds of bottles from the UK, Europe, America and elsewhere and go: “Wow, I wonder what all these are like?”

Please read Ghost Drinker‘s post with the news and his reaction, and the tributes from  Rob, Glyn and Leigh.  Thanks to Yorkshire Daily Photo for the picture and apologies for not asking first.

UPDATE: FORTUNATELY BEER RITZ HAS SUBSEQUENTLY REOPENED!  HOORAY!

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  1. March 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    it’s a massive, massive loss for leeds as a forerunner of the craft beer scene. Everytime i’ve visited i’ve left happy, with a box full of fantastic beers.

    I would have happily supported a ‘save beer ritz’ campaign. Is it too late?

    Couldnt agree more with regards to Zaks blog aswell. It was one of the first I started reading and is still to this day my favourite.

    • March 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      I don’t quite know what’s going on, as Zak says the company is solvent. As people have said elsewhere, it would seem strange that a shop like Beer Ritz would go out of business now that the craft and imported beer scene seems to be growing.

  2. March 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Very sad indeed, your story is very much like mine I wouldn’t be drinking and doing what I do today without Beer Ritz.

    I agree, if I’d have known we could have helped save them I’d have done everything I could to help but we don’t know how suddenly this happened. After reading Will’s blog I selfishly felt guilty for spreading my cash widely recently with my beer purchases. I’m so sad for all the guys who are directly effected.

    As this news ran through my mind I just keep hoping we’ll hear great news like Zak is opening his own shop and its going to be better than ever, but thats just me being an optimist. I hope Zak, Will and Tom find something they love to do as much as they enjoyed working at Beer Ritz. I know they will, you can’t keep people like than down for too long.

  3. March 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Yeah, some good news like that would be great and at least Zak’s well-known and respected in the beer world.

    Surely Leeds can support a shop like it, if York can? I wonder if off-sales benefit from being tied to on-sales, like The Bottle/House of Trembling Madness, or perhaps Headingley is too far out of the city centre for casual customers? Obviously the stock and the staff were great. Perhaps, however, it’s more complicated than being simply financial.

  4. March 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    I think perhaps you are right maybe there is more to this than money. This took me by surprise too, does not seem so long since I was in there marveling at the selection on offer. Apologies accepted, always nice to be credited.

  5. Cliff Challenger
    March 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I was sadded to hear of the closure of Bier Ritz. I was only there shopping on 12 March. had made a regular habit of going to the Sunshine Bakery for a cupcake then on to Headingley to choose some beer.
    You have to wonder if something strange is happening.
    http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/8920425.Riddle_as_beer_firm_ceases_trading/

    Nothing can easily replace Beer Ritz but we need some information about good beer retailers. I was in Chorlton in Manchester last week and was happy to find Pitfield and other organic beers on sale in Unicorn wholefoods. Fodders in Harrogate is a brilliant food shop, specialising in Yorkshire produce, and has a few decent beers, but too much Sam Smiths and certainly not enough botted conditioned beer. I’ve bought Mallinsons at Hebden Bridge Farmer’s market, but I think there should be more out there.
    Is anyone compiling this information? And now Beer Ritz has gone, where can I get Dogfish Head and Smuttynose?

  6. March 23, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Deeply saddened to hear that the Beer Ritz shop has closed. I only managed to visit the one time, but I enjoyed a good hour or so browsing the selection and came away with a couple of baskets’ worth of all-new (to me) beers.

    As to the reason for the closure, I have no definite information, but I suspect it’s down to saving on overheads? I think I heard or read somewhere that the parent company runs its online mail order business http://www.beerritz.co.uk/ as a separate division, and I’m guessing they’ve decided that the margins are better on online sales? Either that or they feel they can just compete better with the other online retailers if they’re not dividing their efforts, something like that.

    But whatever the reason, the closure of a great independent retailer like Beer Ritz is always something to be mourned. I always hoped they’d open up a Manchester branch one day as well. We’re a bit short on quality beer retailers around here, the Micro Bar in the Arndale being the one place that has a bottle selection (so Unicorn wholefoods is good news).

  7. March 24, 2011 at 7:54 am

    …and today, of course, I’m hugely gladdened to hear that they’ve re-opened: http://ghostdrinker.blogspot.com/2011/03/were-back.html
    :)

  1. December 28, 2011 at 9:45 am
  2. May 3, 2013 at 7:33 am

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